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As the legislative session gets underway, my focus, as always, will be on caring for people and supporting policies that help those without a voice. I’m especially concerned about finding ways to improve and support our nursing homes and the needs of elderly Oklahomans. As the saying goes, the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members, and we must do better in Oklahoma, especially in rural areas. Healthcare in rural Oklahoma is severely lacking, and we must work together to find solutions to ensure our elderly have not only better access to care regardless of where they live, but access to the highest quality care available.
Thompson Roger 1I’ve visited facilities around our Senate district and throughout the state and there’s several issues that need to be addressed to improve care. Like many other industries, workforce is a major problem. However, the pay provided for health care workers tasked with the daily care and safety of elderly patients is not competitive with other industries, like fast food. The average nursing home employee is making between $13-$15, which is the same or similar pay as McDonalds and other chain restaurants. We can’t expect skilled workers to choose health care when they work for the same amount in fast food. We must find a way to boost pay for healthcare workers in long-term care facilities. At the same time, we also need to look at increasing employment standards, along with those regulating these facilities to better protect the safety and health of these vulnerable residents.
Another critical issue is that Oklahoma has lost over $47 million in federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency funds for our state’s skilled nursing facilities and Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IIDs) that expired on July 1, 2023. Last session, we provided a $47.8 million increase in the FY’24 budget to replace these funds to protect our state’s long-term facilities.
Even with that financial support, though, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) estimated that the cost of providing care to the average Medicaid resident in a skilled nursing facility is $246 a day. The additional state funding reimbursed nursing facilities approximately $225 of that amount, leaving an additional $21 that facilities must cover. Our state’s population is aging and we’re about to see the largest influx of elderly citizens needing care in the next decade. If we want to avoid widespread closures of these facilities and ensure elderly Oklahomans have a safe place to spend their final years, we must find a long-term funding solution to this issue, which will include increasing provider reimbursement rates.
Another major issue in rural Oklahoma is our deteriorating infrastructure, especially our county roads. We have people who can’t safely get to and from their homes without getting stuck or sliding off the road. School bus routes are becoming more difficult to navigate. I’ll be pushing this session to increase or fully remove the cap on the County Roads Fund to infuse additional money into this critical infrastructure. This is not only a quality-of-life issue for residents, but an economic issue for local communities and businesses. When we invest in infrastructure, we invest in economic development and make communities more attractive to new industries and companies, which in turn provides more jobs and opportunities for local citizens.
If you have any questions or concerns on legislative matters, please contact me at the Capitol by writing to Senator Roger Thompson, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 537, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or calling (405) 521-5588.